James 5:16, Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
As violence and mass shootings are increasing, liberals mock Christians and ask, “What good are your thoughts and prayers?” First of all, your thoughts do nothing; keep those to yourself. Second, saying “thoughts and prayers” in and of itself does nothing. If you’re going to say, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” actually pray for them! Saying your thoughts and prayers are with them is not a prayer. Lastly, the Christian who prays knows that when they pray, this does not mean they’re supposed to sit around and wait for something magical to happen. Prayer is always accompanied by action.
Of course, a lot of the things for which we pray are out of our hands and control. If I pray for my sick grandmother to get better, for example, there’s nothing I can do except pray and leave my prayer in the hands of God. Then again, I might have an opportunity to transfer her to a better hospital or make sure the doctors and nurses are doing their jobs right. If a mass shooting happens in my community, I can pray for the families involved and do what I can to provide them comfort or get them something they need. If I’m in another state, I can pray for them and leave it in God’s hands, who uses people in the damaged community to help one another.
Not only do many misunderstand prayer, but they also underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer is not waiting for magic to happen. God often chooses to work through ordinary means, which He does through people, medicine, institutions, and the like. The prayer of a righteous person—the prayer of a child of God—is powerful because God immediately hears it and begins to act according to His will. In most cases, He gives people the opportunity to answer that prayer, but if they’re sitting around waiting for magic to happen instead, they miss that opportunity to answer their own prayer.
Either way, in prayer, we wait on God. In some cases, we wait on God to do something through someone else or even with His own miraculous power. In most cases, God opens opportunities for us to act upon. Prayer is not a magic spell; prayer is a personal call upon God as we wait on Him to answer according to His will, often through ordinary means.